College Field Hockey
Rider University 4, Quinnipiac University 1
Northeast Conference Semifinals
LAWRENCEVILLE--Led by two goals from senior Gabby Burgo (Collingswood), the Rider University field hockey team advanced to the championship game of the Northeast Conference for the 11th time in the past 13 seasons with a 4-1 win over Quinnipiac University on Friday afternoon at Ben Cohen Field.
"It was a hard fought game," said head coach Lori Hussong who has led the Broncs to the NEC playoffs in all 13 seasons at Rider. "Quinnipiac never stopped trying and they kept the pressure on us in the second half. I'm proud that we were able to stand up to it."
For the third season in a row, the Bronc opponent in the finals will be Monmouth University who defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) 3-1 in the first semifinal.
The championship game will be noon Saturday.
A Second Team All-NEC honoree, Burgo opened the scoring at 14:43 of the opening half, converting a penalty corner with junior Sandra Penas (Barcelona, Spain) and senior Marlaine Schneider (Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy) picking up the assists. Schneider, a Second Team All-NEC honoree, is eighth on Rider's all-time scoring list with 106 points (35g, 36a).
"The corner wasn't a set play for me," Burgo remembered. "I just saw the ball and dove for it and it went in."
Burgo tipped in a pass from freshman Allison Muschs (Linkebeek, Belgium) 9:18 before the half to give the Broncs a two-goal lead at intermission. Burgo now has 12 goals on the season and she moved into a tie for 22nd on Rider's all-time scoring list with 43 points (19g, 5a).
"The second corner, we kind of ad-libbed and I was there at the right time," Burgo said. "Overall, we went out there and hustled today. We really wanted to get back to the finals."
"To score early was big," said Hussong. "What Gabby has done her senior season is incredible. We are really proud of her. She worked very hard her first three seasons with very little fanfare and her effort and hustle has been the difference for us the last half of the season."
"My senior season has been going great," Burgo said. "I love my fellow seniors and my teammates as well and we want to go as far in the playoffs as we can."
With Rider (14-5) a player down due to a yellow card, Quinnipiac (12-7) scored 5:27 into the second half, cutting the Bronc lead to one.
Muschs converted a penalty stroke with 13:09 remaining to give the Broncs a two-goal lead. Muschs now has seven goals on the season and is five for five on penalty strokes.
"We concentrated on stopping their big ball up the field," said Hussong about the strategy after regaining the two-goal lead. "We worked to control the ball and to stop the Quinnipiac's attack."
A First Team All-NEC honoree, Penas scored her team-leading 17th goal of the season with 7:39 remaining for the final score.
Penas is now fifth on Rider's all-time scoring list with 126 points (51g, 24a).
Rider has won 15 of the 26 meetings all-time against Quinnipiac, dating back to 1998. The Bobcats handed the Broncs their only NEC loss of the season, 3-2 on October 14 in Hamden, Connecticut. Rider improved to 4-2 all-time against Quinnipiac in the NEC playoffs.
"We did a pretty good job the first time we played them," Hussong said about the loss in mid-October. "We just didn't do a good job keeping the ball out of our cage and today we did. The two games were very similar. Quinnipiac is such a good team, they never quit and they never stop threatening."
"We had to regroup after the Quinnipiac loss," Burgo said. "We just came together as a group and refocused our efforts."
Rider out-shot Quinnipiac 22-5 (17-4 in shots on goal) and the Broncs held a 12-8 penalty corner advantage.
"Our defense up to the midfield was the key for us today," Burgo added. "They really pushed the ball and sparked our offensive attack."
"The defense was big at the end of the game," said Hussong. "The play of Ellie (LaBar) (senior, Oaklyn/Collingswood) and Stacey (Dileo) (sophomore, Fairfield, Conn./Fairfield Warde), coming up with big interceptions helped secure the victory."
Freshman Joelle Prettyman (Newark, Del./St. Mark's) out-dueled the NEC Goalie of the Year, Nicole Lewis for her eighth win of the season. Prettyman made three saves with Lewis making 13 saves for the Bobcats.
Rider defeated Monmouth 5-2 on October 28 in Lawrenceville and the Broncs also defeated their in-state rivals for the 2011 championship 2-1 and the 2010 title 1-0, both games in Lawrenceville.
Monmouth upset the top-seeded Broncs 2-1 in overtime in the 2009 semifinal. Rider defeated the Hawks in the 2004 (4-0), 2001 (3-1) and 2000 semifinals (1-0).
Rider is now 25-1 all-time at the lighted campus turf field which opened in the fall of 2010.
The Broncs have won the 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and now the 2012 NEC regular season titles. Rider is looking for its sixth NEC championship having won in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2011.
"Every team is special," said Hussong about the now 11 teams that have played for a championship. "Because we struggled a little this season and lost so much to graduation, right now, this has some extra meaning but each team is special in their own way and every year is different."
The winner of the NEC Tournament will play the winner of the Atlantic 10 on Tuesday, November 6, for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Top seed Richmond will play second seed Massachusetts at 2pm Saturday for the A-10 title.